The Brady Bunch and Carol Brady's Appeal

Saturday is actress Florence Henderson's 75th birthday. Best known for her role as Carol Brady on "The Brady Bunch," Henderson become something of an icon for motherhood to millions of baby boomers. But, as listener Jim Cosgrove discovered, Carol Brady's appeal reaches well beyond the children who came of age in the 1970s.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand. Tomorrow, one of America's favorite TV moms, Florence Henderson, turns 75. Day to Day listener Jim Cosgrove has discovered that her influence reaches far beyond the audience that grew up with her in the 1960s and '70s.

JIM COSGROVE (Children's Entertainer, Mr. Stinky Feet): My wife, Jenny, and I recently decided to introduce our four-year-old daughter to some wholesome retro TV shows. So, we started on YouTube with some clips from "The Brady Bunch."

(Soundbite of TV show "The Brady Bunch")

Ms. FLORENCE HENDERSON: (As Carol Brady) Hi, honey. How was ballet class?

Ms. EVE PLUMB: (As Jan Brady) Awful.

COSGROVE: They were such a hit my wife dug out an old Brady Bunch album from when she was a kid.

(Soundbite of song "Time to Change")

The Brady Bunch: (Singing) Sha na na na na na na na Sha na na na na

COSGROVE: Ever since that first spin, Lyda(ph) and her 20-month-old sister, Willa, have been prancing around the living room, lip-syncing to "Sunshine Day" and "Time to Change." It's an absolute auditory assault, but undeniably cute.

(Soundbite of song "Sunshine Day")

The Brady Bunch: (Singing) It's a sunshine day I think I'll go for a walk outside now

COSGROVE: Then, we discovered that our local library has "The Brady Bunch" on DVD. Of course, Lyda is hooked. She so wants to be Cindy Brady, and she thinks Carol and Mike are the grooviest parents ever.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Brady Bunch")

Mr. ROBERT REED: (As Mike Brady) Was tap dancing your idea?

Ms. FLORENCE: (As Carol Brady) I guess so. I suggested that she try another kind of dancing to cheer her up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COSGROVE: So, when do I get to meet the Brady Bunch, she asks. We tried to explain to Lyda, as gently as possible, that Cindy is now pushing 50 and, well, probably looks a little different. But that doesn't seemed to faze her because her eyes light up and she says, I know - maybe we can get them to play a concert here. As the weeks have passed, Lyda has come to accept that the Brady Bunch is just a TV family whose actors are now older than her dad. And she understands that Robert Reed, who played the family's father, is no longer alive. She's even included him in her bedtime prayers, when she talks about the angels in heaven who are looking after her - Aunt Stephanie, Grandpa Bill and Mike Brady.

Then one day, out of nowhere, Lyda says to Jenny, mom, can we go shopping for some skirts? Fair enough, she thought. So, they go shopping, and Jenny tries on a skirt. And Lyda says to her, oh, mom, that looks great. Can you wear that when you pick me up from school? So, here comes the kicker. The other night, as I'm tucking Lyda into bed, she says, dad, when I grow up to be a mom, I'm going to wear skirts and dresses and lots of cool jewelry and high-heel shoes, just like Carol Brady.

My poor, dear wife. She's been one-upped by the queen of groovy moms. I mean, how can women compete with that Carol Brady flare for fashion and that Carol Brady wit? As if the bar isn't set high enough. So, maybe we'll hold off introducing our girls to Shirley Partridge and Jane Jetson and the other super moms. I think we'll just try and contain the damage.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Jim Cosgrove, also known as Mr. Stinky Feet, is a children's entertainer who listens to Day to Day on member station KCUR in Kansas. More about Jim at our blog, daydreaming@npr.org.

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